Gabon - Energy and power
Gabon is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Oil prospecting began in 1931. Deposits were found on the coast or offshore in the vicinity of Libreville and Port-Gentil, in the northwestern part of the country. Later, large deposits were found in the south. Oil from the northwest is channeled by pipeline to Cape Lopez, where there are loading facilities for export. Huge additional deposits were found on Mandji Island in 1962. The massive Rabi Kounga oil field was discovered in 1985; in 1995, it was producing 230,000 barrels per day. The field contains about 440 million barrels of recoverable crude oil. Important deposits at Gamba and at Lucinda (near Mayumba) in the south are exported from terminals at the production fields. Some 80–85% of production is offshore.
Although Gabon's proven petroleum reserves rose from 1.3 billion barrels in 1996 to 2.5 billion barrels in 2002, the government is concerned about long-term depletion of resources. Total production of crude oil fell from 11,600,000 tons in 1975 to 7,600,000 tons in 1984, but had risen to 17,800,000 tons by 1995. Since then production has dropped from 362,000 barrels per day in 1998 to 326,000 barrels per day in 2000, and to 302,000 barrels per day in 2001. Gabon's production goes primarily to Argentina, Brazil, France, the US, and, more recently, Taiwan.
Natural gas reserves were estimated at 184.1 billion cu m (6.5 trillion cu ft) in 1973 but had dwindled to an estimated 33.9 billion cu m (1.2 trillion cu ft) by the beginning of 2002. Gross production of natural gas in 2000 totaled 99 million cu m (3.5 billion cu ft), almost all of which was flared.
In 2002 there were hydroelectric stations at the Kinguélé and Tchimbélé dams on the Mbei River and at the Petite Poubara Dam, near Makokou on the Ogooué. Production and distribution of electricity are maintained by the Energy and Water Company of Gabon (SEEG), which was formed in 1963 and incorporates a number of smaller private and quasi-public entities. Production increased from 114 million kWh in 1971 to 850 million kWh in 2000, of which hydropower accounted for 70.6% and fossil fuel for 29.4%. In the same year, consumption of electricity was 790.5 million kWh. Total installed capacity was about 312,000 kW in 2001. Natural gas is the principal fuel for the thermal plants.